Throughout the entire 2017-18 season, BSN Denver will be giving you game grades from every Denver Broncos contest. Evaluating all of the starters and beyond to give you a better look at the team’s strengths and weaknesses on a game-to-game basis.
In one of the worst beatdowns of this decade, the Broncos fell in Philadelphia to the Eagles 51-23 showing that the talent gap between Denver and the league’s best team is greater than we thought. We dig into it all with our game grades in a game that was poor from both the offense and defense.
Domata Peko: D
Peko managed a nice stuff on the initial run of the game, and then a whole lot of nothing. The big man looked worn out and had his worst game of the season, lacking power and looking sluggish by the end of the game. The run defense got embarrassed, and he was a big part of that. As he was washed downfield on the Eagles final touchdown run, you could see Peko just exhausted and out-muscled. A symbolic play for a disastrous game.
Derek Wolfe: C-
Wolfe has been up and down this year, and he was down this week much like the rest of the defensive front. Interior pressure was absent as the run game was dominated by the Eagles line and the run defense was nowhere to be found.
Wolfe was just not impactful enough, aside from a meaningless tackle for a loss on one of the Eagles eight scoring drives. On the negative side, he couldn’t get off his block on Corey Clement’s big run right at the start of the second half, which set the tone for another rough 30 minutes.
Adam Gotsis: C
Gotsis’ inability to create pressure up the middle’s been lacking the last few games and was again Sunday. Even though he’s still being rotated a good amount, he hasn’t made much of an impact despite his fresh legs. He only had one notable play on a strong run stop down in the red zone on 2nd-and-3 at the end of third quarter.
Von Miller: B-
Von’s performance is salvageable, maybe the only one on the entire defense. When the Eagles ran his way, he set a strong edge and made stops, even coming through with two tackles for a loss. He also created the strip sack that led to Brandon Marshall’s defensive touchdown on the fumble recovery.
He did get called for jumping offsides multiple times and was caught in space on a read-option run where Carson Wentz handed the ball over for a TD, as no-one was there to help Miller. It’s also worth mentioning his strip sack came against the backup right tackle and not Lane Johnson who mostly held Von at bay in pass protection.
Zaire Anderson: C-
Anderson contributed five tackles, and one was for a loss on a nice penetration up the middle on Clement. His other tackles were all downfield as he was blocked to the second level and had to turn, chase the runner and bring him down. Not the type of impact you’re looking for, he, too, was part of the issues with the defense getting gashed on the ground all game long.
Brandon Marshall: D
Marshall’s stats might look good as he had a touchdown on a fumble recovery, had a sack on a nice delayed blitz and added seven tackles, but his performance was anything but.
He just missed far too many tackles and was a liability when closing down on runners in space. With Darian Stewart, he was caught in coverage on Trey Burton on his long touchdown. He couldn’t make a tackle on Brett Celek in space and couldn’t shake his block to stop Clement as he waltzed into the end zone with ease. He also couldn’t tackle Jay Ajayi on another big run later on.
While he made a few plays sporadically, he didn’t play well, or anywhere close to his standards in the past.
Shane Ray: D-
Ray isn’t himself, or at 100-percent, he’s playing with a cast after all, but the offsides penalties have been costly. Ray missed a tackle defending the run on Clement at the end of the first half and was one of the culprits on Ajayi’s big touchdown run, as he couldn’t disengage and allowed the initial hole to open up.
Penalties and run defense aside, Ray didn’t create nearly enough pressure going against backup left tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai, who straight up buried him into the ground on a few plays.
Darian Stewart: C-
Stewart’s issues in coverage continued as he was involved in a few different big Eagles completions. The most notable of which was in coverage on Burton’s 27-yard touchdown where he didn’t close in time as he was the help safety over the top. Stewart was then flagged for unsportsmanlike like conduct when throwing the ball back to Wentz. He just hasn’t been smooth in coverage, and that’s affected his ability to help against the run where he was absent when the Broncos desperately needed it. Even against the run, Ajayi jumped over him on the way to his one touchdown. Just not a good game.
Justin Simmons: C-
Simmons took a bad angle on Ajayi’s big touchdown run, opening up a massive lane to the outside for the runner. He did make a great tackle on Wentz in space on third down in the red zone preventing a touchdown that Philly inevitably scored two plays later.
Chris Harris Jr.: C+
Harris played a good game all things considered, though he too wasn’t perfect. He did a great job early on forcing an incompletion on Alshon Jeffry by knocking the ball out of his hands. After that, he wasn’t tested too much, though he did get beat on a really tough grab that he couldn’t jank out of Nelson Agholor’s hands down the sideline, setting up the final score.
Harris did miss a tackle on Clement’s screen touchdown run (the rookie’s first of three).
Aqib Talib: D-
Talib’s been one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks this season and teams have largely avoided throwing the ball his way. Not the Eagles, who actually picked on him for a brief stretch and made No. 21 look bad.
It all went sour on the corner when he was called on a hold to extend the Eagles opening drive, which resulted in him biting on a read-option fake and getting beat by Jeffry for the opening touchdown. He then allowed Torrey Smith to get open on the sideline for a first down completion on the very next offensive play.
Later, he got beat by Jeffrey two more times once for a 15 yard gain on a comeback route and then on Jeffrey’s second score making it 44-9.
When one of your best players plays that poorly, it’s hard to be competitive in any shape or form.
Other noteworthy defensive performances:
Bradley Roby played decent coverage but was also targeted a few times allowing a 3rd-and-9 conversion and then getting flagged for holding Jeffrey on another third down.
Will Parks had a tip on the opening drive and made another play stuffing the run on what looked like a blitz for a loss of yards.
Shelby Harris had an athletic pass deflection up on the line but then missed a tackle on LeGarrette Blount up the middle on what should’ve been a tackle for a loss.
Zach Kerr was called on a roughing the passer flag that extended yet another Eagles scoring drive.
Garett Bolles: D
Bolles’ struggles continued, especially with penalties. Early on, he was called for holding on 2nd-and-7 during a promising Broncos early drive, setting up 2nd-and-17. He was then flagged for a false start forcing 3rd-and-13 way back in Denver territory.
His play wasn’t much better as he was abused at the end of the first half, allowing a pressure and a sack on different plays. After progressively improving early on in the season, he’s stalled, showing flashes but also committing far too many plays that negatively impact the offense.
Max Garcia: C-
Garcia and Allen Barbre continued to rotate and neither was able to create push in the running game. Neither was perfect in pass protection, especially Barbre, who hasn’t been good the last few games, but they did hold up better than their higher-compensated teammates along the interior.
Matt Paradis: C+
This was a tough challenge for the entire interior offensive line, and Paradis was the best of the bunch, a small consolation. He helped out in pass protection and was mostly good in one-on-one situations. Run blocking wasn’t as good, as he isn’t the same player if he can’t get out in space to block, he just lacks power in a phone-booth, and it showed in a game like this.
Ronald Leary: D-
This was by far Leary’s worst game in Orange & Blue as he was beaten several times both in pass protection and while run blocking. Philly’s star defensive lineman Fletcher Cox really gave him issues. He was easily bested, allowing a tackle for a loss on a Charles run. He was called for holding on a 3rd-and-1 conversion that was nullified. He then allowed a sack by Cox on 3rd-and-18 at the end of first half and allowed the pressure on Osweiler’s second interception. He obviously wasn’t going to fix the issues on the line by himself, but Leary’s paid and expected to do more than being a liability of this magnitude in the trenches.
Menelik Watson: D+
Watson wasn’t the scapegoat he usually is, but he didn’t play well either. He allowed a strip sack by Beau Allen early on and then was called for illegal hands to the face. That’s been par for the course for Watson this year.
C.J. Anderson: N/A
We saw the usual tough running from CJ on his first two plays, then, after two consecutive runs up the middle for no gain he looked as if he was injured on the Broncos second drive. He only carried it a few more times after that and had no room to run like the rest of the backs.
Demaryius Thomas: C+
Thomas was granted a little space early on and was able to string together a few completions. He was unable to get by cornerback Jalen Mills on an early target downfield that could’ve been a potential big play. DT also looked good on a few screen passes even getting himself a touchdown.
He did drop a meaningless pass that was way short of the sticks on a 3rd-and-18 play late in the game, but he really didn’t impact the game one way or another.
Emmanuel Sanders: C
Sanders made some plays and just having him back seemed to at least open things up for DT a bit more. He drew a flag on Mills on 3rd-and-4 to get the Broncos second first down on the opening drive and also had a nice stretched out grab deep.
He did bobble the catch on third down that Vance Joseph chose not to challenge and couldn’t haul in another tough contested catch with a defender right in his grill, but an admirable performance.
Virgil Green: D
Green’s ability as a run blocker’s been lessened the last few weeks. The play that stood out most of his was when he was completely blown up on a run block at the end of the third quarter, allowing an easy first down loss of yardage on Anderson, starting yet another drive in the worst way possible.
He wasn’t targeted at all in the passing game and had little impact in just 21 plays.
Brock Osweiler: D
Brock tried, and at times he maybe tried too much. The initial drive started off with promise but he also threw across his body on a scramble and had a dropped interception soon after that, we should’ve known things wouldn’t go well from there.
He had a could’ve-been pick and threw two actual picks, both on pretty bad decisions and throws. Brock was able to find Cody Lattimer deep on two different throws up for grabs and was able to manage the game somewhat. The issues on third down and in the red zone continued with him. It just wasn’t a good performance that’s encouraging for the future as he was under 50-percent on his completions.
Other noteworthy offensive performances:
Cody Latimer made a really tough contested grab, adjusting his body and pulling in the catch that could’ve been a turnover on one big gain. He had to come back to the ball to make another leaping grab in the second half for his second big gainer. A nice performance.
Special Teams: B
Special teams are not to blame for Sunday’s dismantling and had a generally positive game.
Isaiah McKenzie had a great 44-yard punt return that was one shoestring tackle away from breaking a run to the house.
Riley Dixon averaged 50-yards per his four punts, and both kickoff and punt coverage teams did their job.
Kicker Brandon McManus made two huge 52-yard and 53-yard field goals, while also nailing another chippy plus his two extra point attempts.
This team hasn’t been embarrassed like this for several years, that fall-off doesn’t just happen. The team looked underprepared, the fundamentals were poor, and halftime adjustments made no difference. In a time to throw the kitchen sink at the league’s best team, the Broncos seemed too concerned not to make mistakes and played their worst game yet. That all comes down to coaching.
Vance Joseph made a debatable decision not to challenge a bobbled catch by Sanders on third down and settled for a field goal instead. Soon afterward, with the game virtually on the line with the Broncos down 24-6, Joseph settled for a field goal down in the red zone, in retrospect it felt like he had to try for the touchdown at the six-yard line making it 13-24.
Mike McCoy’s offensive scheme wasn’t the issue, but still, it feels as if the play calling’s become ineffective and predictable, it’s time to switch things up.
Joe Woods inability to attack the backup left tackle was disappointing, whether it be with overload blitzes or switching Ray with Miller. The absence of Zach Ertz didn’t matter, either, as the scheme on the back-end was ineffective, which should be Woods and Joseph’s greatest talent. We simply saw poor tackling, especially from the second quarter on, that’s fundamentals, it’s scheme, and it’s preparation, all coaching.